Working paper

Forgotten friends; Australia, India and the independence of Bangladesh

International relations Diplomacy Human rights Australia India Bangladesh Pakistan


Outside the sub-continent, the bloodshed in South Asia 45 years ago has been too easily forgotten. In 2016, as the number of people displaced by the ongoing tragedy in Syria and Iraq passed the ten million mark after several years of civil war, who remembered that the same number of Bengalis fled from East Pakistan in the space of just seven months in 1971? Beyond that it deserves to be remembered because of the repression and bloodshed that included the deaths of an estimated 300,000 people.

Yet the events themselves are only part of the story. In all this, there is also an important story to tell about Australian policy in response to the crisis, authentic in nature and origin, and different from that of the United States – but neither well-remembered, nor fully explained. It is this last story – the Australian dimension – that this article has as its main focus.

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